Posts Tagged ‘equipment’

IN THE FIELD: Best To Reset

November 22, 2013 14 comments


Digital cameras are so sophisticated and full of technology it can be hard to keep track of the multitude of settings available to create a good photograph. Especially since every situation or outing is different. So how does one obtain consistent results from day to day? Have no fear…there is an easy solution.

I have found the best way to insure predictable results is to reset my camera back to the settings I use the most, before I put the camera away for the night.

Here are a few examples of what I double-check after each photo shoot.

Exposure modes. I always shoot in full manual mode so that’s an easy one to keep track of. No need to fix that setting.

ISO is another setting I don’t change often since I primarily shoot outdoors. I normally have it set between 100 and 200. Occasionally I will shoot indoors and may need to bump up the ISO level if I’m not using a flash. This is the one setting that seems to elude my easy solution. I‘m not sure why, but it does. Bad David.

White Balance is another setting I double-check. Sometimes I’ll change it for different effects, but I always put it back to the cloudy setting. I like the warmth the cloudy setting provides.

Every so often I’ll use exposure compensation. This is another important selection to put back to zero after the day’s shoot. If not, every photo taken after will be either under or over exposed. Bummer.

There are times my on-camera flash will be put to use for a little fill light. I always check to be sure the output levels are reset to zero if they were changed…wouldn’t want to under or overexpose that next scene.

And then there are the focus modes. If I employ the use of manual focus, I double-check the camera and lens settings and change them back to auto focus.

By resetting the camera back to my most often used settings, I know that when I pick the camera up the next time, it’s ready to go…with no surprises.

f 8


ISO 100

cloudy WB


HOW TO: A Third Leg

August 5, 2013 10 comments


In my opinion, a monopod is the second most important tool for an outdoor photographer. The first would be a tripod. Outside of a camera, of course.

Even with the advent of super high ISO speeds, anti-shake lenses and camera bodies, tripods and monopods provide the essential support needed for blur-free photographs. The use of either of these tools also enables you to scrutinize your composition before pressing the shutter button all the way.

But as we all know, a tripod is not always the most convenient support system to use.

For instance, tripods are not usually permitted indoors in many museums, historic buildings or conservatories. A tripod can even get in your way at certain sporting events. Even architectural street photography could be bothersome to some folks with a three legged apparatus spread out across the sidewalk during rush hour.

So what is the intrepid photographer to do? Have faith…there is a solution. It’s not a fix-all, but I have found the simple, rarely-praised monopod often saves the day. These one legged support systems have plenty to offer.

Their conveniences are many. They are lightweight, easily carried, unobtrusive, quick to set up, and adjustable in height. Mount a ball head onto a monopod, and the camera positions available are almost limitless.

The stronger ones can be used as a walking staff, and most importantly, monopods provide a good bit of stability. When braced against an immoveable object or even yourself, a respectable steady platform is the result. And they are usually allowed where tripods are not. That benefit alone opens up all kinds of possibilities. Plus, monopods are fairly inexpensive.

A monopod certainly will not replace the stability offered by a tripod, but they sure do work well in a pinch. If you know someone who owns one, give it a try for a day. I’m sure you will be pleasantly surprised…and you may even add one to your cache of photographic tools. I keep mine in the car at all times.


HOW TO: Indoor Tornado

October 5, 2012 18 comments

Earlier this week we had heavy rain storms come through the area. It was raining so hard and for so long, even I didn’t venture outside with the camera. No sense risking damage to expensive equipment when photography can be done inside under more favorable conditions.

It was so gloomy outside from the heavy cloud cover, darkening a room in the house for my photography experiment was pretty easy. After setting everything up, I closed the curtains and the door to the studio and got started.

Here’s how I produced this photo. I mounted the camera on the tripod and pre-focused on an area about five to seven feet away from the lens by taking a picture of myself. I then turned off the auto focus and set camera to manual focus. Then I set the shutter at 15 seconds, and the aperture was set at f8. I figured this was as good a place to start as any. I then set the self timer for a five second delay to give me time to get in position.

I turned off the lights, turned on the light source, tripped the shutter, moved in front of the camera, and started twirling my the light before the shutter opened. I continued to swing the lights around until I heard the shutter close, because the camera’s sensor will pick up any movement of the light.

What did I use for a light source you ask? It’s simple and inexpensive. Under six dollars, actually. I bought some battery operated LED finger rings resembling oversized jewels at a party supply store for two dollars each. I found a piece of string about six feet long and tied on some washers for added weight to one end of the string, and slid two rings down the string to rest on the washers.

Creating patterns is the fun part. Swing the light horizontally in a tight pattern in the beginning and gradually let the string slip through your fingers to allow the circles to get bigger to make a cone shape. Or swing the string vertically or any which way to create wild patterns of light. Experiment with different shutter times to see how the light changes.

I found through my many attempts at this, just how sensitive the camera is. Keeping the light pattern as consistent as possible is the hard part. It took many tries before I was able to keep from bumping the light into my legs or the desk or….some other obstacle. After a while, the light patterns stayed in a relatively circular pattern. But it took some practice.

Now that the weather has changed for the better, I’ll be heading back outside to do some more experiments using really long exposures and try to capture some ambient night light along with my artificial light. Woo-hoo!

IN THE FIELD: Just South Of Yankee Ingenuity

September 5, 2012 27 comments

When using tripod in the field, I have often found myself facing the challenge of making the transition from a horizontal to a vertical orientation. I am forced to loosen the adjustment knobs so I can flop the camera into the vertical orientation, then move the tripod to the side a little bit in order to re-compose the shot. And it is a rather annoying experience to attempt to capture a vertical image with a camera that is not centered over the tripod.

Several manufacturers have risen to the occasion over the years to solve this dilemma and developed an “L” Bracket configuration. These devices mount to the bottom of your camera in the tripod socket, then the camera and bracket are inserted into a quick release device mounted to your tripod head. These brackets allow you to shoot in the horizontal format then easily convert to a vertical. Simply release the camera from the quick release, rotate the camera 90 degrees to the vertical format and re-mount it in the quick release. Now everything is centered on the tripod.

Kirk Enterprises and Really Right Stuff are just two of the manufacturers of “L” Brackets and quick release plates. They build great quality products, but depending on your budget, they can be on the expensive side.

I have been using a quick release system from Manfrotto for years, but unfortunately their camera plates are not compatible with other manufacturers. And a new system was more than I wanted to spend. Besides, I like my Manfrotto. My problem was, I still wanted that “L” Bracket for the added convenience in the field.

So I reached for my pirate’s hat and came up with my own version of an “L” Bracket which would be compatible with my Manfrotto parts. After making some preliminary calculations, I headed down to the hardware store and bought a strip of aluminum, some machine screws and nuts. I bent the aluminum to shape, cut the piece to length, then measured and drilled the appropriate holes for mounting purposes and for my cable release. Next, I mounted the quick release plates to the aluminum strip. Then I placed a strip of thin rubber between the bracket and the bottom of the camera for protection, and tightened the whole assembly.

Presto…a homemade “L” Bracket and quick release system and it only cost me $13.53 including tax. Now when I want to shoot a vertical composition, I simply mount the camera in that position. And if I want my next shot to be a horizontal, I open the quick release and mount the camera in that format.

Now, I never have to re-position the tripod, and it’s way faster to set up. Yabba-dabba-dooo!!!

HOW TO: Light Painting

August 27, 2012 24 comments

Capturing light trails at night from different light sources is relatively simple and can produce really interesting effects. I have used sparklers, flashlights and even set up my camera and tripod near a busy road to record vehicle headlights and taillights.

It’s very easy to do, and only your imagination is the limit to what you can produce. Due to the long exposures needed for this technique, you will need to set your camera up on a tripod, or you could use a sturdy object that won’t move such as a rock, a chair or even a fence post.

Since we had monsoon like rains yesterday afternoon and last night, shooting outside in the dark was out of the question. So I moved inside and chose the darkest room in the house. Our bedroom closet.

For this exercise, I used a small flashlight to create the light trails. I keep it in my camera bag for viewing things like camera controls and settings in the dark. It has a blue light rather than red, and is actually easier on the eyes at night or in dark situations,

After setting the shutter speed and aperture, I placed the camera on a dresser that is inside our closet. I then turned off the closet light, pressed the shutter and got into position, or what I thought was a good position. I then began to wave the flashlight around in front of the camera. It took several tries to position myself in a good spot to capture the light from the flashlight.

I experimented with different arm and hand movements to create various patterns of light. After trying several combinations of camera settings, I realized waving a small flashlight three feet from the front of a lens was too close. Too many hot spots. So I tried moving the flashlight in a way without pointing it straight at the lens.

If I was outside, and it wasn’t pouring rain, I could have been much farther away from the camera and been more creative twirling and moving the flashlight. Even though I was in a closet, the concept still worked.

Using manual mode, aperture in the range of f8 – f16 produced the best results. Shutter speeds varied between five and ten seconds This image was taken with an exposure of six seconds and an aperture of f11. And I used the self timer set for a two second delay to trip the shutter.

Playing around with long exposure times, different apertures, and sources of light is a lot of fun and can yield really neat looking images.

In the Field: Equipment Review…Now I can See It

August 8, 2012 21 comments

The scenario goes like this..It’s a bright sunny day. Compose subject, push shutter button, look at LCD screen on the back of the camera. The sun is so bright and glaring, nothing is visible on the LCD screen. Cup hands around the screen to see if shot is as intended. Still don’t have a clear, glare free view.

Try another tactic. Move to a shady area to view the screen. Shot didn’t work. Now position is changed. Go back to former position, set up again, and retake the photo. Repeat as needed.

These methods work, but they are not the most efficient.

A few years ago I got this handy little device that solves all the problems of viewing the LCD screen on bright sunny days. It called the HoodLoupe 3.0 by Hoodman Corporation.

It’s really easy to use. All you do is take the picture, place the Hoodman on the LCD screen to eliminate the sun glare, and view the shot. The loupe will cover up to three inch LCD screens.

The Hoodman Loupe is made of a soft rubber and the lens is German glass. For those that may wear glasses or contact lenses, it has +/- 3 diopter so you can adjust focus. It also comes with a lanyard to go around your neck and it comes with a quick release buckle. That way you can detach the loupe, and hand it to another person to view the image you just shot. The manufacturer even provides a soft carrying case with a belt clip. How cool is that!

The loupe retails for about 80 bucks US. I use my Hoodman all the time when I am outdoors, whether it is sunny or not. Checking exposures and or compositions is so easy and convenient. Going home with shots that are poorly exposed, or composed for that matter, is a thing of the past.

IN THE FIELD: I’m Late I’m Late

August 6, 2012 31 comments

Earlier last week I noticed some wildflowers growing in a roadside field I hadn’t noticed before. I didn’t have time to stop and get a few photos, but I made a mental note to return to the spot a few days later when I had more time.

I headed back to the field on Thursday morning, and as much as I wanted to run the A/C in the Jeep, I drove with the windows down. I had the camera and the lens of choice on the seat next to me outside of the camera bag. This was to allow everything to acclimate to the sunny, hot, humid, jungle like conditions we are experiencing this summer.

It was around 9:30 in the morning when I arrived at the field, and to my dismay, someone had mowed the majority of the field. Nothing was left, except for a few plants that somehow made it through the wrath of the mower. I’m not sure why the field was mowed since it’s been vacant for years and there were no “For Sale” or “Sold” signs nearby.

I don’t know what kind of plant this is, but I’m glad I was able to get a few shots of these neat looking seed pods which were about three to four inches long. I positioned myself so the sunlight was behind and off to the right of the seed pod to add some highlights. For this photo, the settings used were, white balance set to cloudy to add a bit of warmth, ISO 100, f3.2 @ 1/1250th of a second, and my lens of choice was the 35mm.

IN THE FIELD: High Visibility

June 13, 2012 33 comments

In the valleys below where I live, the area is predominately farmland. For me, this provides a wealth of photographic subject matter. I particularly like the equipment used in farming operations. And it doesn’t matter whether it is old or new, I can always find something interesting to photograph.

I came across this piece of equipment in a small field surrounded by trees on three sides. Actually, it was hard to miss. Not only did it stand out in this scene, but it was quite large. It is a drop spreader used for lime or crushed stone products. I like the contrast between the bright orange paint on the machine and the natural surroundings of the blue sky and green leaves.

I took this photo on a clear, bright, sunny morning and it is straight out of the can. I did not even use a polarizer. Nor any digital manipulation to intensify the colors. Sometimes everything just falls into place and you get lucky.

IN THE FIELD: Tasty Delights

June 4, 2012 23 comments

I know I have mentioned in previous posts, there is an orchard only a few minutes from our home. Customers can pick their own fruit in season or purchase what is picked by the staff.

Not only do we shop there for fruit and vegetables, but for me, it’s a supply of endless photographic opportunities. I am honored to say the owners have used some of my photographs of their establishment in their promotional brochures, as well as their on-line presence. When photo opportunities present themselves at a privately-owned business, I’ll say it again: it pays to ask permission first.

Of all the fruits and veggies grown there, strawberries are in season now and are being picked at a furious rate. The patch where they are grown and picked by strawberry lovers is roughly three acres in size. Orchard owner “D” said, “the berries can’t ripen fast enough to keep up with the demand, which has doubled since last year.”

This morning I headed out to the fields to photograph the berries ripening on the plants. With any luck, I would get a few shots before they were all harvested by the hordes of berry pickers. The plants are low to the ground, and the rows are close together, so using a tripod was an exercise in geometry. I brought an old blanket and used it to kneel on, and sit on between the rows of plants. Which was a good idea since we had rain last night. And it showered again while I was shooting the berries. Luckily the sales hut was only about 100 yards away and I was able to duck inside and take refuge from the rain.

Whenever I am not hand-holding my camera, to avoid camera movement I use my cable release to trigger the shutter. It was used in this scenario also, but the self-timer would have worked just as well. But I prefer to use the cable release, especially if there is a breeze. This way I can control exactly when to trip the shutter.

We’ve purchased our fair share of those red mouthfuls of sweetness. But it never seems to be enough.



May 18, 2012 28 comments

I was out shooting wildflowers yesterday and came across wild columbines growing near some large pine and maple trees.

I set the camera and tripod up for a nice composition and initially, the situation wasn’t looking good. It was late morning and the flowers were in direct sun and with all that harsh bright light, the color of the flowers was washed out.

But, I had my handy dandy 22 inch collapsable 5-in-1 reflector/diffuser with me to save the day. While kneeling on the ground and looking through the viewfinder, I metered the scene for a good exposure and then held up the diffuser to shade the flowers. The difference in readings was three to four stops.

There were two ways to remedy the situation. Choose the desired aperture and then turn into a contortionist and try to meter the scene for the proper shutter speed while holding up the diffuser. Or hold up the diffuser, use aperture priority, and let the camera decide on the appropriate shutter speed.

After I had my settings were I wanted, I held up the diffuser to shade the blossoms and to soften the light, and with my other hand, tripped the shutter with the electronic cable release. Using the self-timer would have worked also, but I like the instant response of pushing a button and the photo is taken. I took several shots using manual exposure so I could dial in a little underexposure and also used aperture priority. Both results were good.

When I left in the morning it was a bit chilly and breezy, but by the time I found these Columbines, it had become hot and calm. A six foot diffuser would have been nice to shade me on the way home.